Introduction: Childhood blindness is included in VISION 2020, however, it is rare, so there is limited population-based evidence to assist with planning. We carried out a survey of childhood blindness in Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania to generate information needed for planning eye care services.
Methods: The study was carried out in parallel with a Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness survey. Villages within Kilimanjaro Region were selected on a probability-proportional-to-size basis. Key informants in each village were trained to identify children with any vision problems; a visiting team assessed the children to determine visual status and arranged for further assessment as needed at hospital. Files of children at schools for the blind in the Region were reviewed to identify children in schools from the selected study villages.
Results: Among the 95,040 children in the 72 villages sampled, 13 children were identified as blind; an additional 3 children were found in the schools for the blind. The prevalence of blindness was 0.17 per 1,000 children; the causes of blindness varied but there was no vitamin A or measles-related corneal blindness and only 1 case of unoperated cataract.
Discussion: The low prevalence of blindness in children suggests that efforts at reducing childhood blindness in Kilimanjaro Region have been effective. Planners there should focus on community-based approaches to ensure that blind children have appropriate rehabilitation services and educational placement. While it remains impractical to carry out large childhood blindness surveys, this approach attached to a RAAB survey may be useful for generating information for planning services.